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Massilia Sound System, a raggle-taggle group of trobamuffins rooted in the Southern French tradition of song and storytelling, formed in response to trouble-wracked 1980's Marseille.
Hit by unemployment, social deprivation and immigration, France's second city and gateway to Africa was tearing itself apart. As the French National Front exploited Marseille's desperation and built its extreme right-wing powerbase, Massilia's songwriter Tatou, tchatcher (rapper) Papet Jali and sound system supremo Goatari took a stand.
Rather than declaim Marseille's ethnic mix, their musical output celebrated it. Their playful music and lyrics picked up a hotchpotch of influences, not least the independent Occitan mindset. Massilia Sound System took pride in their city, their culture and their language. Their songs were a magical blend of chanson francais, Provencal patois, reggae and ragamuffin detailing everyday scenes of Marseille life from the batiments to the football terraces.
In 1989, they set up their own record label, Roker Promocion, to give other bands a platform and break the Parisian monopoly on the French music scene, helping to launch the careers of IAM, France's biggest hip-hop group, and Les Fabulous Trobadors.
Massilia's lineup expanded to include members Lux B and Gari, though Goatari left the group in the mid-90's. Alongside their releases, the band have collaborated with other sound systems, produced other acts and held workshops to help young musicians develop their talent.
From the rub-a-dub football-and-partying CD debut "Parla Patois" to the Jamaican-inspired regional pride of "Commando Fada", the Indian-influenced "A´ollywood" and the Brazilian sounds of "Occitanista", Massilia have begged, borrowed and stolen from countless cultures, yet their work remains politicized and proudly parochial, linked to the land of 2CVs, pastis and their beloved Olympic de Marseille.
THE SCENE FORUM
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